MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING
UNIVERSITY OF DANANG
The thesis has been completed at the College of Foreign Languages,
TRAN THI HONG DUNG
A STUDY ON SYNTACTIC, SEMANTIC
AND PRAGMATIC FEATURES OF EXAGGERATION
IN ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE
University of Danang.
Supervisor: TRAN MANH QUANG, M.A.
Examiner 1: Nguyen Thi Quynh Hoa, Ph.D.
Examiner 2: Ngo Dinh Phuong, Assoc. Prof.Dr
Subject Area : THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
The thesis to be orally defended at Examining Committee.
Time: 27th April, 2011
Venue: Danang University
M.A THESIS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
The origin of the thesis is accessible for the purpose of reference at:
DANANG - 2011
- The College of Foreign Languages Library, University of Danang
- Information Resources Centre, University of Danang
-4practice, the study aims to supply some implications to language
Exaggeration which is commonly heard within conversation or
seen in short stories, also goes beyond what is truthful and accurate.
People talk about having “a million things to do”. What is said and
teaching and learning. It is hoped that the practical information can
provide teachers and Vietnamese learners of English with various
ways of expressing exaggeration. At the same time, it also helps
students, learners identify and use exaggeration so that they can
communicate more successfully in real life language interaction.
1.3. AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
what is meant are very often two different things – by saying they
have “a million things to do” they probably mean they have a
considerable amount of work to do; additionally, they may be
unhappy about being so busy, or that they are feeling the pressure of
This study is aimed at finding the similarities and differences
in English and Vietnamese in terms of syntactic, semantic and
the amount of work they have. Exaggeration appears frequently in
conversation, in discourse as well as in short stories.
Furthermore, exaggeration can be used in short stories to
emphasize or dramatize a person’s opinion or emotion as in “ I can’t
The findings of the research are expected to improve the
ability to use exaggerated expressions effectively; particularly, in the
teaching and learning of English and Vietnamese as a foreign
live without him. I’d sooner kill myself” [43, p.35]
We can find that exaggeration appears in English and
Vietnamese with a high frequency. It creates a satisfactory feeling
- To identify, describe and present the syntactic, semantic and
pragmatic features of exaggeration in English and Vietnamese.
when exaggeration is understood. However, it is uneasy for readers
or listeners especially for Vietnamese learners of English to identify,
understand and use. Therefore, I choose the topic “A study on
Syntactic, Semantic and Pragmatic Features of Exaggeration in
English and Vietnamese” for my thesis.
1.2. JUSTIFICATION OF THE STUDY
The thesis is designed to study the syntactic, semantic and
pragmatic characteristics of English and Vietnamese exaggeration. .
On this ground, the thesis analyzes the syntactic, semantic and
pragmatic features of exaggeration in English and Vietnamese. In
- To compare and contrast the features mentioned above to
clarify the similarities and differences of the two languages in this
- To suggest some implications for using exaggeration
1.4. SCOPE OF THE PRESENT STUDY
I will concentrate on the analysis of the syntactic, semantic
and pragmatic features of exaggeration in daily conversations, short
stories and novels in the hope of finding out the similarities and
differences in English and Vietnamese, and then to provide some
practical suggestions for teaching and learning these two languages.
1.5. RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- What are the syntactic, semantic and pragmatic features of
exaggeration in English and Vietnamese?
- What are the similarities and differences of exaggeration
used in English and Vietnamese?
- What are some suggestions for the language teaching and
AND THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
2.1 PREVIOUS STUDIES RELATED TO THE TOPIC
H.P.Grice in his theory on the logic of conversation. suggested
the Cooperative Principle(CP) which is a basis of conversational
Austin (1962) in the book “How to do things with words”
learning as well as language used in everyday speech?
presented the speech act theory. Austin claims that an utterance
consists of 3 types of acts: locutionary act, illocutionary act and
- English and Vietnamese have a wide range of exaggerating
- There are some differences and similarities in using
exaggerating expressions in English and Vietnamese.
1.7. THE ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY
perlocutionary act. He also made distinctions between illocutionary
and perlocutionary acts. However, the perlocutionary act is more
suitable for exaggeration than illocutionary one. Therefore, speech
act theory is very useful for studying and understanding exaggeration.
In addition, Galperin [5, p.176] gave a definition of
Chapter 1: Introduction
hyperbole and he distinguish the little difference between hyperbole
Chapter 2: Literature Review and Theoretical Background
and mere exaggeration.
Chapter 3: Methodology and Procedures
Chapter 4: Findings and Discussions.
Chapter 5: Conclusions and Implications.
Penelope Brown and Stephen C. Levinson give their
definitions of positive and negative politeness
Furthermore, in scientific research article “At the risk of
exaggeration: how do listeners react to hyperbole?”, Mora (2003)
provides a general framework for the description and understanding
of exaggeration in interaction.
A more recent ray of light in exaggeration research came
from the experimental psychology research area, with an
investigation by Kreuz, et al. (1998)..
-7Joan Cutting [9, p.37, 72] presents theory which the speaker
-82.2. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
flouting the maxim of quality by exaggerating as in “I could eat a
2.2.1 Definition of term
If we understand simply, “exaggeration is representation of
In Vietnamese, exaggeration has been dealt with by many
Vietnamese linguists such as Đinh Trọng Lạc, Nguyễn Thái Hòa, Cù
Đình Tú, Hoàng Tất Thắng, and so on.All these authors consider
hyperbole as a stylistic device used to express various meanings.
something as greater than it really is” (Oxford English Dictionary)
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, “exaggeration
means the describing of something and making it more than it really
In “Để Tiếng Việt ngày càng trong sáng ”, Phan Hồng Liên
is”. Similarly, WordNetSearch.edu gives the following definition of
emphasizes that exaggeration is the way using means of language to
exaggeration: “Exaggeration is the act of making something more
draw attention and to make a strong impression. He also states that
noticeable than unusual ”
Vietnamese people usually use words denoting the parts of human
Cano Mora [3, p.14] defined exaggeration as “A form of
body such as “Buồn nẫu ruột”, “Nói vỗ vào mặt”… She assumes
extremity that either magnifies or minimizes some real state of affairs.
that exaggeration is somewhat related to simile. [32, p.106-111]
Exaggerated expressions has traditionally been thought of as
Nguyễn Thị Thảo (2005) investigates ways of expressing
overstated stimulacrums of reality”.
absolute meanings in English and Vietnamese , gives a definition of
In Vietnamese, Đinh Trọng Lạc says that “ Phóng ñại là dùng
exaggeration (hyperbole) and considers hyperbole as a way of
từ ngữ hoặc cách diễn ñạt ñể nâng lên gấp nhiều lần những thuộc
expressing absolute meanings effectively .
tính của khách thể hoặc hiện tượng nhằm mục ñích làm nổi bật bản
Phan Thị Uyên Uyên (2006) deals with exaggeration as one of
the commonly used stylistic devices in advertising language in
chất của ñối tượng cần miêu tả, gây ấn tượng ñặc biệt mạnh mẽ ”
(Exaggeration is using words or expressions several times to
multiply the properties of the object or phenomenon. It aims to
highlight the nature of the object which need describing, and to make
The comparison and contrast of exaggeration in English and
particularly strong impression)
Vietnamese conversations and short stories have not received
Based on the above definitions, the exaggeration is defined in
appropriate attention of linguists. Therefore, this study attempts to
this paper as “Exaggeration is deliberate overstatement of a feature
discover exaggeration in three aspects (syntax, semantics and
essential to the object or phenomenon to produce a strong impression
pragmatics) with comparison and contrast in English and Vietnamese
or to draw attention. Exaggeration is closely associated with TRUTH,
everyday conversations, poetry and short stories.
or rather going beyond TRUTH.”
2.2.2 Stylistic Devices
“Negative politeness is any kind of behavior that is intentionally and
Stylistics - one of the branches of General Linguistics –
appropriately meant to show the speaker does not want to impinge on
studies the nature, functions, and structure of stylistic devices.
the addressee’s privacy, thus, maintaining the sense of distance
According to Galperin , stylistics observes not only the nature of
between them. ”
an expressive means but also its potential capacity of being a stylistic
Galperin defines that a stylistic device is “a conscious and
intentional literary use of some of the fact of the language (including
Brown & Levinson (1987) recognized that exaggeration is an
essential part of positive politeness and going off record in their
treatment of linguistic politeness. Social factors are the most apparent
in the uses of exaggeration for politeness.
expressive means) in which the most essential features (both
2.2.5 Grice and Conversational Implicature
structural and semantic) of the language forms are rised to a
H. P. Grice in his theory on the logic of conversation. He
generalized level and thereby present a gernerative model” [5, p.26]
2.2.3 Figurative Aspects of Exaggeration
suggested that conversation follows a Cooperative Principle (CP)
When introducing these maxims, he points out that they are
Hyperbole is not only non- literal but often has figurative or
not always strictly followed by speakers. We sometimes violate the
metaphorical aspects associated with it, for example in phrases like
maxims when we communicate. Thus, if someone purposely flouts
“books coming out of my ears”, “laugh my head off”, etc. Figurative
one or more of the above maxims and remains within the CP, they set
and non- literal speech is a common part of our everyday
up a different meaning, or implicature. In the case of exaggeration, it
conversations and interactions. Other figurative language research
is the Maxim of Quality and Quantity that is normally flouted by
has also assessed hyperbole and the reasons why it is used. [13, p113]
saying what is obviously untrue.
2.2.4 Exaggeration and Politeness Theory
Brown and Levinson provide a slightly different perspective
on politeness phenomena. They point out that many speech acts are
It may be necessary to investigate factors that may influence
the production of exaggeration as well as linguistic features of
exaggeration in English and Vietnamese.
Face Threatening Acts (FTA), those which are some way threatening
2.2.6 Exaggeration as the Violation of CP
to either, the speaker’s or hearer’s face.
By flouting this maxim, say by exaggerating, speaker can
Nguyen Quang [18, p.11,24,88] in the light of cross-cultural
communication, presents conceptualization of politeness: “Positive
convey a different meaning. Let us take into consideration this
utterance of simple exaggeration: He’s got tons of money.
politeness is any kind of behavior that is intentionally and
2.2.7 Exaggeration and other linguistic units
appropriately meant to show the speaker’s concern to the addressee,
220.127.116.11 Exaggeration and Lie
thus, enhancing the sense of solidarity between them. ” and
Lie is the deliberate act of deviating from the truth.
18.104.22.168 Exaggeration and Irony
Accordingly, both lie and exaggeration are the act of magnifying
Once using irony, speakers/ writers do not use it
more than the truth. Along with the purpose, the nature of
unconsciously. Irony has a strong power of expressive and therefore
exaggeration, lie is used to deceive other people. Otherwise,
through it many writers proved that a pen is mightier than a sword.
“exaggeration is inflation beyond the limits of truth and making
Irony does not cause a humorous effect.. Phan Hong Lien
something seem larger, better, worse, etc., than it really is”
analysed clearly using exaggeration to mock everybody “ Cảm ơn
(Longman, 1999). Exaggeration is aimed to make the hearer/ reader
tiên sinh, tiên sinh cứ dạy quá lời”. The hearer knows that he/ she is
pay more attention to and understand more deeply what the
not “tiên sinh” and the ironic utterance implies a negative meaning. It
creates the opposite meanings compared with its environment. She
(2) Your kindness will impress on my heart to grave, say I
22.214.171.124 Exaggeration and Litotes
In stylisics, litotes is a figure of speech in which, rather than
also distingwishs the difference between exaggeration and irony.
(6) Mr Henry often helped us with hard work in difficult
moments. We regarded him as superhuman.
2.3.8 Speech Act
making a certain statement directly, the speaker expresses it even
Levinson [16, p.226] claims: “Of all the issues in the general
more effectively, or achieves emphasis, by denying its opposite..
theory of language usage, speech act theory has probably aroused
Litotes is nearly the opposite form of exaggeration.
the widest interest”
126.96.36.199 Exaggeration and Simile
Simile, in English and Vietnamese is a very common poetic
device, and also occurs frequently in everyday language. Many
experiences, feelings, and ideas are difficult to express in words.
Therefore similes are used to express them.
Exaggeration is a type of figurative language. Exaggeration
According to Yule, “Actions performed via utterances are
generally call speech acts”. Austin  defines speech acts as the
actions performed in saying something
They also stated three speech acts performed by producing an
a. Locutionay Act:
also compares two objects to make something greater than it really is.
b. Illocutionary Act
For example, if you say “my cat is as big as a house” or “She was as
c. Perlocutionary Act:
brave as a lion”, you would be exaggerating. This is also a simile,
(7) I feel a hundred times more thankful than I do [56, p.78]
which is exaggerated to create a strong impression on the hearer.
(8) His speech was endless. Most of people felt asleep.
Furthermore, Searle classified speech acts into functions:
declarations, representatives, expressives, directives and commissives.
Perlocutionary act is used for exaggeration more than
METHOD AND PROCEDURE
3.1 RESEARCH DESIGN AND RESEARCH METHOD
This research is conducted using the Qualitive and Descriptive
methods to achieve the aims and objectives specified in chapter 1.
3.2 RESEARCH PROCEDURES
- Choosing the topic to investigate by reviewing the previous
.- Choosing the relevant materials (books, researches and
thesis) and research articles, extracting exaggerating expressions
from film scripts in English and Vietnamese
- Calculating the frequency of occurrence.
- Generalizing and identifying the similarities and
differences between two languages of exaggeration in the fields of
syntax, semantics and pragmatics.
- Making tables and calculating the frequency of occurrence.
- Suggesting some implications for teaching and learning of
3.3 DESCRIPTION OF SAMPLES
In order to survey samples of thesis, the study is focused to
reach 1000 samples of English and Vietnamese exaggeration.
3.4 DATA COLLECTION
The data collection consists of samples obtained from various
sources in different languages: English and Vietnamese.
3.5 DATA ANALYSIS
In this study, the reviewed existing theories serve as a basis of
the data analysis. Particular is paid to analyzing and categorizing the
data syntactically, semantically and pragmatically.
3.6 RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY
Reliability and validity are two most important criteria to
guarantee the quality of the data collection procedures.
FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION
-164.1.2 Syntactic features of Exaggeration in Vietnamese
Table 4.2. A summary of Vietnamese exaggeration in syntactic
4.1 The Syntactic Features of Exaggeration in English and
4.1.1 Syntactic features of Exaggeration in English
Pre-modifier + H Noun
Table 4.1. A summary of English exaggeration in syntactic
Head N + Post-modifier
Adj + N
N + Prep + Adj + N
Present/ Past Participle
Head Adj + Post-Modifier
Pre-modifier + Head Adj
N + Adj
Adj + PP
Pre-modifier + Head Adj + Post-modifier
V + N + PP
V + Prep + NP
Pre-modifier + Head V
V + N + Adj
Head V + Post-modifier
Pre-modifier + Head V + Post-modifier
Adv + Adv
Prepositional Phrase Prep + NP
S1 + V + As + Adj/ Adv + As + S2
S1 + V+ Comp Adj/ Adv + Than
S + Adj+ ñến vô cùng
Nothing + V + Comp Adj + Than
S1 + V + The superlative Adj/Adv
+ N + PP
S + Adj + bằng / bằng cả/ như + Clause
S + V + Adv/ Adj + tới mức/ ñến/ ñến mức +
S + V + N + Adj + nhất
S + V + Adv/ Adj + tới mức/ ñến/ ñến mức +
4.2.9 Exaggeration of Value, Quantity
This part showed how exaggerating expressions behave
4.2.10 Exaggeration of Poverty
syntactically into common patterns: phrases and clauses. The results
4.2.11 Exaggeration of Appearance
of analysis indicate that exaggerations in English and Vietnamese are
4.2.12 Exaggeration of Beauty
similar to each other in form. Both English and Vietnamese possess a
4.2.13 Exaggeration of Ugliness
system of exaggeration words such as adjectives, nouns, adverbs.
4.2.14 Exaggeration of Sexuality
Besides, we can see exaggeration appearing in phrases: adjective
4.2.15 Exaggeration of Tiredness
phrases, noun phrases, verb phrases.
4.2.16 Exaggeration of Movement
However, exaggerations in English and Vietnamese are not
completely similar in syntactic patterns. It is discovered that there is
In summary, this research has analyzed the semantic features
no case of exaggeration in prepositional phrases and adverb phrases.
of exaggeration in English and Vietnamese The semantic features of
The study also reveals that exaggeration by means of a single verb is
exaggeration are shown in table 4.3 below where all the features have
been categorized into common topics.
in English. Moreover, noun clauses appear in English
exaggeration while no examples of exaggerating noun clauses can be
Based on an analysis of exaggeration of various aspects such
found in Vietnamese. In contrast, exaggerating clauses of result don’t
as love, appearance, beauty, sex, and others, this part of the study
appear in English.
shows the importance of culture in language Exaggeration in both
4.2 The Semantic Features of Exaggeration in English and
languages can be categorized into 16 groups that mention 16
interesting topics. From our data corpus in English and Vietnamese,
We can realize that exaggeration can be categorized into the
4.2.1 Exaggeration of Sadness
4.2.2 Exaggeration of Happiness
4.2.3 Exaggeration of Anger
4.2.4 Exaggeration of Suffering
4.2.5 Exaggeration of Wish
4.2.6 Exaggeration of Quality of People/ Things
4.2.7 Exaggeration of Love
4.2.8 Exaggeration of Strength
Exaggeration of Tiredness and Poverty cannot be found in English.
Table 4.3 Frequency of Semantic Features of Exaggeration in
4.3.3. Exaggeration of Showing Compliment
English and Vietnamese
4.3.4. Exaggeration of Showing Complaint
4.3.5. Exaggeration of Sympathy
4.3.6. Exaggeration of Thanking
4.3.7. Exaggeration of Irony
4.3.8. Exaggeration of Interest
Table 4.4 Frequency of Pragmatic Features of Exaggeration in
English and Vietnamese
4.3 Pragmatic Features of Exaggeration in English and
4.3.1. Exaggeration of Emphasis or Highlight
4.3.2. Exaggeration of Humor
So far in this part, I have studied exaggeration in term of
pragmatics in English and Vietnamese. There are both similarities
and differences between English and Vietnamese exaggeration. They
both use exaggeration of highlight, humor, compliment, complaint,
irony and interest as shown in table 4.3
It seems that there are no big, considerable differences
between English and Vietnamese exaggeration. Exaggeration of
CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS
thanking can appear in English since it could not be found in
5.1 SUMMARY OF THE STUDY OF EXAGGERATION IN
Vietnamese. In contrast, we cannot find exaggeration of sympathy in
ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE
English from the data. Besides, the differences between them lie in
As it was presented in the four previous chapters, the study
their frequency. Table 4.4 also points out that there is a significant
involves descriptive and contrastive study of syntactic, semantic and
difference in the distribution of exaggeration creating ironic effect in
pragmatic features of exaggeration in English and Vietnamese.
English and Vietnamese. 19,2% of English exaggeration investigated
It is possible to conclude from the findings of the thesis that
show this purpose. Meanwhile, 25,2% of Vietnamese exaggeration
there is, in short stories and in daily conversations, a tendency of
are found in creating ironic effect. In English, the exaggeration of
employing exaggeration in order to make impressions, and to attract
humor and showing compliment are nearly evenly distributed.
the attention of the readers or the listeners.
Basically, exaggerations in Vietnamese and English share
many characteristics in common.
Firstly, in terms of syntax, most of the exaggerating
expressions in English and Vietnamese are expressed through noun
phrases, verb phrases and adjective phrases.
Secondly, in term of pragmatics, exaggerating structures are
used with the same purposes of showing emphasis, compliments,
criticisms, irony, etc. as well as showing emphasis is the highest
frequency in both languages.
Thirdly, the semantic features of exaggeration in English and
Vietnamese are expressed in the same topics such as sadness,
happiness, anger, suffering, love…
Syntactically, while in English, exaggeration tends to be
recognized in the form of prepositional phrases, adverb phrases, in
Vietnamese this form are not in use. Another difference is that, while
in Vietnamese, exaggeration appears in superlative form with “ñến
Through studying between different languages and cultures to
vô cùng” and Clauses of Result with “tới mức”, “ñến mức” is
see whether the same phenomenon exists and to show ultimately that
common, these structures are not found in English.
exaggeration is a universal phenomenon.
It is clear that in two languages, the order of the frequency
The result analysis and discussion also gives an overview that
from the largest percentage to the smallest is rather similar. However,
most exaggerating expressions in English can be translated into
there is a difference in percentage of each structure. In English, for
Vietnamese, however, they are transformed by some ways having the
instance, the percentage of the topic “love” is larger than that in
similarities and differences, especially in the form of languages,
Vietnamese, 19.4% of the former compared with 13% of the latter. In
cultures and society.
English corpus, we do not discover any exaggeration on tiredness and
5.3 IMPLICATIONS FOR THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
poverty. In contrast, exaggeration of wish and beauty are not found in
LEARNING AND TEACHING
The English language learning and teaching cannot ignore
exaggeration, a common phenomenon in language. Through the
study of exaggeration in English and Vietnamese, we hope that the
exaggerations to show thanking. Meanwhile, among all of
study will be part of contribution to the process of teaching and
exaggerations investigated, there has not been any exaggeration
learning English. Therefore, we should suggest some useful
found in Vietnamese to express this function. Morever, while
implications for learning and teaching English as a foreign language.
showing sympathy is a popular function of exaggeration in
Vietnamese, this function is not found in English.
5.3.1 Problems in Foreign Language Teaching and
Exaggeration is a very essential and important device, which is
In reality, learning to interpret and express exaggeration seems
used to produce emotional, artistic effects on the hearers or readers.
to be a difficult task for Vietnamese learners of English.
Its aesthetic value is hardly disputed. It cannot be denied that
Exaggeration can present interesting challenges to the readers. The
exaggeration is a device which sharpens the reader’s ability to make a
comprehension process involves not only identifying the possible
logical assessment of the utterance. Exaggeration is a common and
interpretation through analyzing the syntactic structure, but also
prevalent phenomenon, often being used in ordinary conversational
using contextual clues to eliminate some interpretations.
situations and readily understood and interpreted.
5.3.2 Suggestions for Language Teaching and Learning
Exaggeration, a common phenomenon in language, is
obviously a necessary part in
English language learning and
-25teaching . For this reason, we hope that the results of this study will
-265.4 LIMITATIONS OF THE PRESENT STUDY
be partial contribution to the improvement of teaching and learning
My study has been relatively limited in its scope and aims and
English. In other words, I’d like to put forward some the following
is meant more as a foundation or initial study to pave the way for
suggestions, which might be applicable in language teaching and
future research. Due to the limited time and resources, I was not able
to carry out empirical testing on the different aspects of exaggeration.
For teacher, I think that the effective use of language and
Likewise, not all samples from short stories, films and conversational
communication with exaggeration, whatever in linguistic form or
situations were considered. My search for data initially concentrated
function must be taught or learned, the linguistic form, context
on areas where exaggeration was more likely to appear ,so that I
appropriateness must be introduced all together. With the aim of
could have occurrences of exaggeration to consider. In addition, the
helping learners of English to write as well as to communicate
lack of time, reference and material make it impossible for the
effectively, teachers should draw their attention to subtle topics of
researcher to provide more sufficient and more intensive focus on
everyday life and provide them with a considerable number of
exaggeration. As a result, mistakes and shortcomings are inevitable.
exaggeration. Futhermore, there is difference between what is stated
5.5 SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDIES
and what is really meant and what we actually say cannot always be
The present study attempts to provide some distinguishing
taken literally, we can manage to help learners understand the
linguistic features of exaggeration. For further research, the following
exaggerating expressions in reading comprehension.
topics should be explored to produce more valuable results in this
Teachers and syllabus or materials should take into account
this detail in teaching and preparing the linguistic content and the set
5.5.1 Emotion and Exaggeration
of exercises for the teaching and practising exaggeration or function
5.5.2 Hearer Interpretation of Exaggeration
of exaggeration in context.
5.5.3 Exaggeration in style of sports commentaries
For learners, they usually improve their knowledge of
language to be able to read professional magazines or reference
books in the field. They can understand easily reading texts, or can
make daily conversations using exaggeration. Moreover, they can use
and translate exaggerating statements easily if they are equipped with
a wide background knowledge of culture, custom and society, moral
and psychological standards
5.5.4 The responses of exaggeration English and